What You Can Wear to an Afternoon Wedding

The dress-code of an afternoon wedding is semi-formal which calls for cocktail dresses, LBDs or modest party dresses. If is is a formal afternoon wedding go for a cocktail dress or dressy afternoon dress or suit. A dressy LBD is also meeting the bill. This post provides tips on how to best dress for an afternoon wedding.

  1. What to wear to an afternoon wedding
  2. Best cuts for afternoon wedding dresses for women over 40
  3. Avoid the color of the bridal party
  4. Which fabrics are best for an afternoon wedding guest?
  5. Best shoes for an afternoon wedding
  6. Don’t match the color of the clutch and shoes
  7. Hats and sunglasses
  8. Dim down the glam
  9. Be aware about the No-nos
  10. Afternoon wedding outfit ideas for women over 40

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.

Best cuts for afternoon wedding dresses for women over 40

Let’s assume your event is not for a beach wedding some hours after lunchtime, but a semi-formal event. Fit-and-flare, sheath, high-low hem dresses or retro inspired (read 50s) are great choices for the cut. If you like to dance, go for a dress with a pleated or flare to circle skirt. Be sure to wear bikers in a matching color underneath to not show too much leg when you twirl. If there is a religious ceremony involved, don’t go strapless or spaghetti straps. If you absolutely want that dress, have a little cover-up like a jacket in the same fabric as your dress or a fancy coat.

Avoid the color of the bridal party

Always avoid white unless you are the bride. Otherwise color-wise everything from pastel to gemstone bright colors goes. In the US, find out the color of the bridal party, so you do not choose the same color. No matter which style of dress you will choose, be aware of the colors of the wedding party.

Take into consideration that the photos of the wedding are incredibly valuable memories for the couple. You don’t want to choose a color that clashes with those chosen by them for their big day. If you have no clue what these colors are and have no chance to find out, your best bet is to take a look at the goto color palettes for the year.

In many European countries, wearing a LBD to a wedding would not be a good choice. In the US, it is ok, when the vibe clearly states party. Medium sized (size of your hand) floral print cocktail dresses work well too with metallic pumps or pumps in a color of the print or dress for a semi-formal dress code. When you are on a budget, but need a new dress browse consignment and/or stores long time ahead of the date or look for budget-friendly afternoon wedding guest attire online.

Which fabrics are best for an afternoon wedding guest?

What else should you take into mind? The fabric is important as well. For formal and semi-formal events taffeta, tulle, chiffon, lace, jacquard or silk are great fabrics. Steer away from anything to daytime like cotton, jersey, or denim.

dress in tea-length for a mature guest at after lunch nuptial
Nice romantic style Shein Sheer Puff Sleeve Shirred Detail Lace Flare Dress that covers the upper arms

Best shoes for an afternoon wedding

If the party is outside, go for elegant wedge heels that match the vibe of your dress. They help you walk on the lawn and not to stick in the lawn. You want to wear the new shoes still after the wedding party is over. Peep toe pumps are a great option with short dresses – read above-the-knee. If the fabric of the dress is matte, go for patent leather pumps in the same color of black. Nude patent leather is a great option for gemstone colored dresses. Blush or metallic pumps work nicely with pastel shade dresses. In the US, a black pants suit with chiffon top or a tuxedo are great choices too. When you want to add suspenders, buy them in the color of your top. You can find more on colored suspenders and wedding Dos and Don’ts at the link.


Stylist tip: When you are a guest at an outdoor nuptial, try to get information on whether you can get to the place with heels. In Alaska, outdoor weddings might require to change the footwear to get there. Tourist are often upset when they see Alaskans wearing outdoor shoes in wedding photos.


When the party is indoors and your feet can’t endure heels for a long time have some metalic flatouts in your clutch. When everyone sits to enjoy the cake, nobody will see that you wear them.


Don’t match the color of the clutch and shoes

Choose a bag in a different color than your shoes, unless you are in your twenties. On us 40+, matching bag and shoes looks so Seventies and screams Old Lady. A metallic clutch with patent leather heels or a patent leather clutch with metallic heels work. A sequin clutch with matte open-toe pumps all in neighbored colors of the color wheel or in the same color family are great combinations.

For a modern look, don't match the colors of your clutch and shoes. #advancedstyle Click To Tweet

Hats and sunglasses

In the Southeastern US, a hat is a Must at an outdoor afternoon wedding. Go a style that matches with the vibe of your dress. Take the female Royals wedding style as a guide. The hat should match the dress colorwise or pick up colors of the accessories. When choosing the hat, keep in mind how you intend to wear your hair. If needed, make an appointment at the hairdresser for a blowout or fancy updo.

Sunglasses don’t look appropriate with a cocktail dress. The combination of sunglasses, long hair down, and large dangly earrings plus a wide brim hat is too much even for the Kentucky Derby.


details of Shire Scala Collezione straw topper
Shire Scala Collezione straw hat with double brim and feathers c/o Tenth Street


For examples how to create an outfit with a nuptial event suitable statement hat like in the photo above, see my review of this straw hat.


Dim down the glam

Go for just one statement jewelry piece like a large cocktail ring, large dangling earrings(photo above) or a statement necklace. You will look your best with the earrings that enhance your personal style and work well with your face features.

If needed, you can determine your face shape with this free online tool.


Be aware about the No-nos

Avoid the following most often made style faux pas:

  1. Religious jewelry of your own faith when there will be a service of another faith.
  2. Skimpy or provocative clothes including corsages and belly-free attire except for saris.
  3. Jeans and T-shirts, baseball caps, large view-blocking hats.
  4. Casual footwear or bags to your otherwise semi-formal outfit.
  5. Clashing colors with the colors of the party
  6. Sunglasses plus long hair down plus large dangly earrings plus a wide brim hat.

Afternoon wedding outfit ideas for women over 40

See the following photo outfit inspriations for an afternoon nuptial.

weddinstyle style blogger Nicole in a black lace dress for a semi-formal afternoon wedding
High-low hem lace cocktail dress with Neo Tango sandals and vintage brooch tail decoration (all own)


High Latitude Style blogger presenting a vintage inspired flapper attire for a summer marriage ceremony
High-low hem floral print dress with beading and sequins and build-in slip to avoid see-thru. Pair it with metallic flat sandals and a lavender leather or fabric clutch for a garden outdoor ceremony


#KentuckyDerby woman wearing an outfit perfect for the Kentucky Derby
Ivanka Trump sandals, D&G clutch, Aspeed burnt velvet gown, pearl and Swarovski crystals earrings (all own) and Shire Scala Collezione straw hat c/o Tenth Street


Style blogger in nude and black mother-of-the-bride dress
Fishnet tight, Very Fine Dancesport Shoes, jewelry (all own), mother-of-the-bride dress c/o JJ House and clutch c/o Bellorita


Nicole of High Latitude Style donning a salmon color cat dress as a guest at a nuptial
Victoria Victoria Beckham cat pleated drop-waist dress with pumps, Paloma Picasso sunglasses, Hermes collier de chien bangle and scarf (all own)


midlife woman in fit-and-flare cocktail dress with cross body evening bag
Hinge leather jacket, Ivanka Trump ankle strap sandals, lace inspired cuff (all own), fit-and-flare chiffon and lace cocktail dress c/o JJ House, styled with black fish crossbody c/o Bellorita


fashion blogger at the Fairbanks potato festival
Self-made turquoise 40s inspired dress with abstract floral print, Hermes collier de chien bangle, statement peridot, amethyst,and citrine necklace with matching earring and bracelet, and Valentino studs (all own)


over 50 years old nuptial ceremony guest with silk floral coat to stay warm in the late afternoon
Banana Republic golden floral print silk coat for cover up when going to an afternoon wedding. A tote permits carrying an extra pair of shoes for comfort. Make sure this pair is also matching the dress and don’t break the outfit


You can find inspirations for a civil wedding at the link.


When you liked the outfit style tips and want tips for all kind of dressing situation in midlife, buy my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife.


Will you attend a wedding this summer? Have you already picked the dress?


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Photos: G. Kramm

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